Indian food, culture,traditions and their role in community health
Indian Food, Culture, Traditions and their role in Community Health International Honours Program Health and Community spring India Program 4th February 2009 ESG
The food, culture and traditions of India has been shaped by itslong history, unique Geography, and greatly influenced by the different rulers, travellers and neighbours. 2000 B. C –Indus Valley Civilisation lays the foundation to the ayurvedic style of cooking 1000 B C –Aryans ( Roots of hinduism get shaped, Vedas and Caste system developed) 600 B C –Buddhism and Jainism 400 BC: Greeks AD –1200: Persians and North Indian Dynasties 1200 -1500 AD: Portugese 1500-1800 AD: Moghuls 1800 – 1947 AD: British -Anglo-Indian cuisine – Tea
Food• Food is an important part of Indian culture, playing a role in everyday life as well as in festivals. In many families, everyday meals are sit-down affairs consisting of two to three main course dishes, varied accompaniments such as chutneys and pickles, carbohydrate staples such as Rice and Roti (bread), as well as desserts. Food is not just important for eating, but it is also a way of socializing, getting together with family, relatives and friends.
Diversity• Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the people of the ethnically diverse subcontinent. Generally, Indian cuisine can be split into four categories: North, South, East, and West Indian. Despite this diversity, some unifying threads emerge. Varied uses of spices are an integral part of food preparation, and are used to enhance the flavor of a dish and create unique flavors and aromas. Ayurveda( Ayur-Life veda- studies) has laid the foundation to the basic style of cooking in India as early as the Indus valley civilization.
Ayurvedic Cooking• Food Helps maintain physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony and is a key to continnuos to good health.• The basic principles of Ayurvedic Cooking are : the five Elements, the three Doshas, the three Gunas, the seven Dathus and the six Tastes.• It also attaches a lot of attention to the effect of the cooking method on the quality of the foods, the importance of the vibrations of the cook and of the surrounding atmosphere, the compatibility of foods, the right time for cooking and eating, the cycle of the seasons and the effects of food on consciousness.• The knowledge and use of herbs, spices, vegetables, legumes etc to maintain physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony is very important in ayurvedic cooking.• Ayurveda foods are appetizing, flavourful and aromatic and offer healing and good health when served in an inspiring atmosphere.• Ayurveda foods help to clean the accumulated toxins (which are a result of improperly digested food) and rejuvenate the body as each dish is cooked and spiced to achieve maximum digestibility.
The five Elements • Earth • Wind • Fire • Water • Space/Ether
What are Doshas?• vata (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (mucus). These three doshas are responsible for the physiological and psychological processes taking place in the mind and body. Vata dosha: Vata is composed of elements air and space. This biological humor is responsible for controlling the function of destruction. It is regarded as the main dosha among all the three as it controls and governs all the functions performed by other doshas. Pitta dosha: Pitta is composed of elements fire and water. It organizes all activities performed by body after the process of transformation. The whole chemical process including enzymes, immune power, hormones, nerves and the nutritional system attributes to pitta. Kapha dosha: Kapha is composed of elements earth and water. It is responsible for the maintenance of all creations taking place in the body. All the activities of the skeletal and the anabolic system come under kapha.
What are Gunas?Ayurveda categorizes food in to three categories:Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic and they have different effects on the body and the mind.• Sattva is a quality of mind which induces clarity, harmony and balance. Fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, fresh fruit juices, cereals (red rice), herbal tea, fresh cow milk, dry fruits, nuts, honey, jaggery, all spices and freshly cooked Food• Rajas is a quality of mind which induces energy and action. The need to create. Read to eat canned food, basmati rice, sour cream, paneer, ice-cream, yeast, sugar, pickle, vinegar, garlic, onion and salted food.• Tamas is a quality of mind which evokes darkness, inertia, resistance and grounding. The need to stop. Alcohol, Beef, Chicken, Fish, Pork, Eggs, Frozen food, canned food, Mushroom, Drugs, Tea, Coffee, Fried food, Fried nuts.
Which are the six tastes?• Ayurveda perceives food in terms of the six tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Ayurvedic cooking includes all of these six tastes at each main meal you eat. Each taste has a balancing ability, and including some of each provides complete nutrition, minimizes cravings and balances the appetite and digestion.• Sweet (madhura): Milk, butter, sweet cream, wheat, ghee (clarified butter), rice, honey, raw sugar, ripe fruits of many kinds Sour (amla): Limes and lemons, citrus fruits, many kinds of immature fruits, yogurt, mango powder, pomegranate seeds, tamarind Salty (lavana): Salt (ayurveda recommends rock salt), salty pretzels or pickles Bitter (katu): greens of many kinds, turmeric, fenugreek Pungent (tikta): Chili peppers, ginger, black pepper, clove, mustard, radish, Astringent (kashaya): Beans, lentils, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage etc
What are Dhatus?Dhatus are Tissue forms• Plasma-It is derived from digested food and nourishes the body. The nutrients need to reach each and every tissue of the body.• Blood-It is the basis of life. It takes nourishment to all tissues and cells, give strength and color to the body.• Muscle-ts function is to provide physical support.• Fat -at tissue or adipose tissue keeps fat as a means of body lubrication and a support to bones• Bone-includes all the bones and cartilages. Gives shape to the body• Bone Marrow-one marrow, the initial stage of blood cells.• Reproductive Tissue-Helps in reproduction and also gives strength to body. It includes sperm and ovum.All the seven dhatus are well connected to each other. Damage of malformation of a dhatu can in turn affect all other dhatus.
Food Pyramid-Acomplete Ayurvedicdiet includes beans orlentils, rice, grains,seasoned vegetable,spices, ghee, yogurtand some freshlymade chutney.
Eating and serving styles • Eating with your hands is considered important in Indian etiquette because a person eating with his hands knows the exact temperature of food before the morsel hits his mouth thus preventing blisters in mouth due to consumption of hot food. • A universal aspect of presentation is to sit down on a mat or low stool with the thali, a large plate with samplings of different vegetable dishes accompanied by breads such as roti, chapathi, naan, puri and rice. • In South India, a cleaned banana leaf is often used as a hygenic and visually interesting alternative to plates. Traces of Magnesium and Zinc present on the plantain leaf is said to have health benefits too. In addition the plantain leaves are completely biodegradable.
Role of Fermented foods • The cultural heritage of virtually all civilizations includes fermented foods made by the souring action of microbes. Fermented foods are consumed in every country throughout the world and play an important role in our diet for centuries. There are nutritional benefits from fermented foods. • Idli for example is a fermented food of India which is prepared by steaming a fermented black gram (Phaseolus mungo L.) and rice (Oryza sativa L.) batter. It makes an important contribution to the diet as a source of protein, calories and vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins, compared to the raw unfermented ingredients. It can be produced locally and used as a dietary supplement in developing countries to treat people suffering from protein calorie malnutrition and kwashiorkor. • Other egs: Curd, lassi, buttermilk, Dosa, dhokla, Jalebis, Kanji, appams etc
Ghee –Clarified Butter • Ghee is an integral part of the practice of ayurvedic herbal formulation. Since ghee is an oil, it can bond with lipid-soluble nutrients and herbs to penetrate the lipid- based cell membranes of the body. • Ghee helps balance excess stomach acid, and helps maintain/repair the mucus lining of the stomach . • Mild Burns: Like aloe, ghee is said to prevent blisters and scarring if applied quickly to affected skin
Why do people in the Malabar coast drink cumin water? • Jeera Water-Drinking water in which cumin seeds have been added is very good for flatulence, dyspepsia, diarrhoea and cold.
Rice• India is a rice country and rice has been the staple food for generations.• one major rite of passage in the life of a child is the taking of the ’first rice’. This event is a time of rejoicing for the entire family.• Rice is also used in wedding rituals.• Its white colour is a symbol of eternity and continuity.• Popped /puffed rice is very popular through out India.• Pressed Rice (Poha) is widely consumed as a breakfast cereal throughout India• India once had 200,000 varieties of rice, post green Revolution we have about a fifty. Hybridised, engineered poisoned rice is in the market without proper biosafety rules.
Ragi for health • Ragi or Finger Millet (African millet)I s originally native to the Ethiopian Highlands and was introduced into India approximately 4000 years ago. It is grown as a cereal in Asia and Africa. It is often intercropped with legumes, peanuts and other crops. • It contains the amino acid Methionine and is ground ,cooked into cakes, Rotis, dosas, puddings and porridges • In southern parts of India, pediatricians recommend ragi food for infants of six months and over because of its high nutritional content, especially calcium.
Cane Sugar or Jaggery • Jaggery is wholesome sugar and, unlike refined sugar, retains more mineral salts. Moreover, the process does not involve chemical agents. • It is used in small quantities in everyday Rasam. • Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections. • Jaggery is also considered auspicious in many parts of India, and is eaten raw before commencement of good work or any important new venture
The wonder nut • The benefits of coconut are far too many and is called the Kalpavriksh • It is rich in short and medium chain fatty acids. Lauric acid the major component of coconut has been recognized for its unique properties in foods which are related to its antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal functions. • In addition to the nutrient and fibre content in coconut the medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) help lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease when compared to any other saturated fatty acids of both plant and animal origin.
The everyday medicinal rasam • Rasam is a aromatic thin soup served with rice and is an inseparable part of the south Indian cuisine. It is an enticing dish to loosen crammed tummies, ease breathing for those with a bad cold and the favorite for everyday meals. • It is made with a number of spices such as coriander seeds, Red Chillies, fenugreek Seeds, mustard seeds, Asofoetida or Hing,Jeera (Cumin) seeds. Curry leaves, Jaggery, Salt, Tamarind, water and a lentil.
The Indian Masala Dabba- Spice Kit • A typical assortment of spices and herbs used in the Indian Kitchen
Traditional Cooking Utensils • Using a copper cup is very healthy. It purifies blood. It removes toxins from body. It is good for skin, and heart. It reduces Kapha. • It is believed that to prevent asthma, one should drink water which has been kept overnight in a copper vessel. This water, with traces of copper in it, is believed to change one’s constitutional tendency to get respiratory problems.
Traditional Oil Bath • A health Habit of South India -Oil massage is of great help to people living in hot conditions. The oil massage can calm the nervous system, circulatory system and mind and moisturizes the skin. It is a ritual in most south Indian homes every Sunday and on festivals. • There is this ritualistic post-natal bath that a woman is given few days after childbirth for about 1½ months. Before this bath she is subjected to a meticulous body massage with special herbal oils by a trained maid. This hot oil bath helps to alleviate the muscle strain of labor and childbirth, is good for cellulite reduction and works wonders on stretch marks. It is also believed that oil massage helps the uterus to shrink to its original size and encourage the flow of breast milk.
Traditional ShampooThere are two major kinds ofSoapnuts which are mostly used inwashing, bathing, cleaning andshampoo found in south Asiancountries. The big Soapnutsknown as sapindus mukorossi andthe small one known as sapindusTrifoliatus. Soap nut contains highlevel of saponins. It is antibacterial,mild foaming agent and cleanser, .Soapnut powder is used to cleansehair, skin and laundry. Helpful inremoving stains from hands, maysoothe the eczema, psoriasis, itchyand sensitive skin. Soapnut is anexcellent hair tonic.
Festivals and traditions • Mango, Neem ( ‘Village pharmacy’ of southern Asia) and Plantain is extensively used during festivities for it purifies the air with its medicinal properties
The Holy Basil • Tulsi(Sacred Basil) (Ocimmum sanctum)is known to one of the most useful medicinal plant. It is believed to purify the air in its surroundings. Apart from its religious significance it is of great medicinal significance, and is a prime herb in Ayurvedic treatment. Marked by its strong aroma and a stringent taste, tulsi is a kind of "the elixir of life" as it promotes longevity. The plants extracts can be used to prevent and cure many illnesses and common ailments like common cold, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning and malaria.
Turmeric • Traditionally, it has been considered great medicine for coughs,colds, stomach disorders, open wounds and as a beauty agent since time immemorial. It has great anti septic properties and used without fail in almost all dishes except sweets.
PATENTS! • In December 1993, the University of Missisippi Medical Center had a patent issued to them by United States Patent and Trades office on the use of turmeric for healing. The patent was contested by Indias industrial research organization, Council for Industrial and scientific Research (C.S.I.R )on the grounds that traditional Ayurvedic practitioners were already aware of the healing properties of the substance and have been for centuries, making this patent a case of Biopiracy.
Lifestyle changes and unhealthy habits on the rise • The majority of young Indians are moving away from home-made food, instead buying their packaged, takeaways and snacks from supermarkets and eating out in restaurants that offer a range of cuisines. • For a number of psychological reasons, such a lifestyle shift has led to people eating more than before and lifestyle diseases are on the rise • Outlets of KFC, Mc Donalds, Pizza hut, subways are mushrooming across the country • Fibre and protein rich foods like ragi and maize are fast disappearing, with carbohydrates and fats taking their place
Food processing industry on the rise • India’s food processing sector accounts for about 7 per cent of its gross domestic product, or about $70 billion, while the restaurant sector’s size is estimated at $20 billion ($110 billion in China) — figures that could be underestimates, given the size of the unorganised sector in these categories. • Modern lifestyles induce people to eat more than their bodies need, even if they are aware of the pitfalls — people being out of tune with their own bodies.
Multi Nationals taking over food Industries • Nordic consumer goods group Orkla has acquired Indias MTR Foods, a manufacturer of processed vegetarian food products and spices. • MTR Foods is a family run company, but JPMorgan Global Packaged Foods and Aquarius together own almost 50% of the company.
Fitness on the rise • By working out in gyms and fitness centres, the young urban Indian is striving to be in good shape. With many big apparel and cosmetic brands hitting town, one is tempted to fit into that perfect size. Scores of fitness centres have mushroomed in the city, each competing with the other to help one attain that picture perfect figure. • Treadmills, cross-trainers, exercycles, steppers, rowers and others are now familiar terms in almost every household. • Fitness Centres, health spas and beauty treatments are on the rise.
Food Adulteration • Of all the different types of adulteration, poisoning from chemical dyes is the worst. Sudan dyes belong to a family of industrial dyes normally used for colouring plastics and other synthetic materials, according to a document published by the European Union. Foods across the globe have been found to be containing sudan red dyes that give a brilliant red colour to the Chinese sauces, Indian pickles and also in South African foods. Sudan i-iv dyes have high potential carcinogenic effects.
Pesticides in food a silent killer• Experts warn of damaging effects of pesticides• Aluminium Phosphide, DDT,Lindane,Methyl Bromide,Methyl Parathion, Sodium Cyanide, Methoxy Ethyl Mercuric Chloride (MEMC), Monocrotophos, Endosulfan, Fenitrothion, Diazinon Fenthion, Dazomet are some pesticides that are banned in some developed nations, but under restricted use it is generously used in vegetables such a cauliflower, cabbage, brinjal, beans, bittergourd, cucumber etc and fruits such as grapes, mango, banana etc India• The health impacts of these range from liver and kidney damage, cancer, endocrine and reproductive disorders, effects developing fetus, neurological problems, retinal damage, immuno- suppression, allergic reactions and behavioral disorders.
Home to organic farming • Organic farming was practiced in India since thousands of years. The early civilizations in India learnt from practice that the health of the soil was the key to growing healthy plants and Soil health was obtained by composting. • Sir Albert Howard, known as the father of organic farming had spent several years in India 1905-1934, studying the agricultural methods of the local population, and was aghast at the heavy use of chemical fertilizers in his native England. While in India, he noticed that the local farmers were able to produce a surplus of food every year by using natural animal compost, and the animals fed with this food were much healthier than those he observed in England. Based upon his observations in both India and Britain, Howard postulated that healthy soil, nurtured with natural compost, would bring about healthier, more vigorous plants, stronger animals, and more nutritious food for everyone involved.